Saints need to figure out Vaccaro's role

With the New Orleans Saints’ selection of Texas safety Kenny Vaccaro, there’s a common assumption that either strong safety Roman Harper or free safety Malcolm Jenkins will be on the way out.

But I’m not so sure that’s the case. I think the Saints might be able to find prominent roles for all three safeties. Coach Sean Payton made it sound like Vaccaro could play several roles.

“He has versatility,’’ Payton said. “I think when you watch him play and you study game tape, he plays a lot of nickel because of the amount of spread offenses they saw in their league last year. There were a lot of snaps where he is down in the paint with two safeties behind him, covering down on the No. 2. One of the things that is attractive about this player is that he can do that and he’s got that versatility to play not only safety, but to play down over the slot. You saw a lot of evidence of that. In fact, we had to go back and get more snaps of true safety film on him, rather than nickel film. I think he’s versatile enough to play either one of the safety positions and certainly a guy that can handle some of the nickel.”

I know a lot of Saints fans are down on Harper and would like to see Vaccaro simply replace him. But I don’t think the Saints are ready to just let Harper go. If they wanted to get rid of him, they would have done it by the third day of the league year when $2.6 million of his base salary became guaranteed. If the Saints released Harper now, it would end up costing them cap space.

And I don’t think the Saints are ready to give up on Jenkins. He hasn’t blossomed into a star, but he still has upside. Vaccaro could get some safety work, but move to the nickel against slot receivers. The Saints can't be too confident in Patrick Robinson as their nickel back after he struggled last year.

I think the Saints still are trying to figure out how they’ll use Vaccaro. I think they also are still figuring out what his arrival means for Harper and Jenkins. There may be room for all three to have roles.

“We say the same thing every year: we’re going to create competition with everyone in our camps,’’ Payton said. “We felt like if he was available, we were getting an awfully good defensive football player to help our team. Now it will be up to him and us as coaches to get him up to speed along with everyone else. That kind of stuff will sort itself out.’’